How IT Managers Can Do A Better Job Of Team Building

The job of every IT manager is to find ways to use your IT manager skills to get the most productive work out of your team. However, your team is made up of a group of very diverse individuals – they really don’t have a lot to do with each other. What this means is that being an IT manager is much more than just telling people what to do, it’s convincing them to work together to accomplish a goal. I don’t believe that there is any IT manager training that can teach us how to do this. Before you can make this happen, you’re going to have to build a team…

What’s Wrong With Today’s Team Building

Team building is not something new. However, the ways that it is done today more often than not does not achieve its goals. The reasons for this are many; however, interviews with people who have attended building exercises have revealed some common factors. In a number of cases the building exercises had nothing to do with the company’s culture. In other cases the exercise placed staff in situations that they found either embarrassing or uncomfortable.

What a lot of our current building exercises are missing is an understanding of just exactly what we are trying to accomplish. The purpose behind making an investment in a building exercise is that you want to boost both communication within your team and camaraderie within your team.

Any building exercise is only going to last for a brief period of time. When it’s over the staff who participated in it will be going back to their offices. These offices may be located anywhere on the globe or everyone may already be part of the same office. As an IT manager, you are going to want to see improvement in how everyone works together once they’ve participated in the team building exercise.

How To Go About Building Teams The Right Way

So if we can all agree that it is easy to go about trying to do team building the wrong way, then what becomes most important is finding ways to go about doing this type of activity the right way. A lot of this starts with having you understand that within your team, there will always be people who don’t want to participate. Whatever exercise you do, you’ll need to make sure that it appeals to them and draws them in.

The team building exercises that your team is involved in need to reflect your company’s culture. You need to keep in mind that a team building exercise may be one of the few times that the various team members have to work side-by-side with each other. This means that you need to use this opportunity to have the exercise to allow them to discover things about each other such as how they prefer to make decisions. The thinking is that after the team building exercise is over, this information will allow everyone to work together more closely.

When you understand that in order for your team to work together smoothly, they need to understand how each other thinks and feels. The purpose of any team building exercise has to be to place the members of your team into a situation where they can’t succeed by themselves. Instead, they need to rely on others to achieve a goal. This may be a new situation for many of them, but developing this kind of skill is critical to showing your team how they can be successful by working together.

What All Of This Means For You

As an individual IT manager there is only so much that you can get done in a given day. If you are able to get the people who work for you to cooperate and work as a team, then you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more. It’s creating this team that can be the real challenge…

A lot of what passes as IT team building today does not accomplish what it is intended to do: build a team. There are a lot of different reasons for this but the most common ones are that the team building that was done had nothing to do with what the company does or that it made the people participating feel embarrassed. IT managers are finding new ways to engage their team members in team building activities. These new methods tap into pop culture and are more likely to draw all members of the time into the exercise.

As an IT manager you are not going to be effective if you don’t have a team to manage. Trying to manage a collection of individuals will be too hard and will consume too much of your time. Instead, you need to take the time to find the right team building exercises that will cause your collection of individuals to fuse into a smoothly working te

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Time Always Changes Content, Format and Presentation Even In Team Building

Team building events should not be thinning the herd or pitting individuals in a team against each other. Team building should not be a clandestine program on the part of senior management to select up-and-coming leaders. Once participants in a team feel there are ulterior motives to the team event they can revert to a survival of the fittest mode; a competition within a team and then appears the “I” in team.

For example, if a team is assembled under the auspices that the exercise is to build cohesiveness, respect and to define/clarify goals, there should not be any hint of any underlying motives. Specifically, if management is wanting to evaluate inherent management skills of candidates for future promotions, the team building exercise is not the place for this kind of search. Such moves will render the tool of team building worthless. People today are cynical and cautious about being manipulated; they will spot insincere motives immediately and that feeling will last a very long time.

Thinking about these comments: How effective would it be, if announcing to a group of potential new managers, they were participating in a test to evaluate their management skills that were to be used in receiving a future promotion? In essence, management is trying to determine who is the best leader based on some undefined criteria. Now let’s all have fun… I don’t think so.

To be clear, I am not intimating that some non-destructive competition between teams is not appropriate. I am saying that pre-determined competition within a team for personal recognition, monetary gains, or promotion is destructive.

Many years ago I lead a team in a new start-up company I had founded. One person on the team, who had previously retired and then came back into the workforce, looked at his job as a social endeavor more than a job; it was something to occupy his time. We would occasionally socialize after work; most conversations were work related–financing, website design, etc. Nonetheless, this created a very powerful rift amongst the team as they felt I was relying mostly on one individual and their input was less valued and would ultimately impact their stock participation plan. Fortunately, it was corrected before permanent damage was done.

The problem was solved when I restructured the organization to visually and viscerally demonstrate that the team was most important. I got the feeling that the team thought I was grooming one of the team for a senior role at the diminution of very important other team members.

Team building is an important tool in any organization, whether formalized or ad-hoc. Don’t fall into a trap of using team building exercises to rank or evaluate employees for promotions; there are more effective setting for that to be done in a less destructive way for an organization. Even after extensive employee testing (if you chose to go that route) such as extensive interviews (as a group or round-robin) or considering outside recommendations; face it, not all management personnel decisions are correct.

Employers that try to manipulate employees will always get less than desired results and the impact can be felt in long-term results that are also less desirable and impactful long-term. Matt Alderton wrote an article in Successful Meetings Magazine entitled-How to Enhance Your Workplace. One of his points in the article is that “Managers would be well-served to learn… the skills of relationship management, consulting and communications. Being able to work with colleagues, as well as manage others, is very important.” A skill learned in part through team building not in hand-to-hand combat on the job.

Further, don’t promote people that do well in team building exercises and forget that team building is not, in-and-of-itself, the only indicator of a good manager. Management should define all the tool sets of a management position for their organization, by function. Realize not everyone will have all those tools so for the sake of the organization train new or potential managers toward the total tool set. Team building is not necessarily the place to train, but it can be a place to help build confidence in potential new managers.

My rules of the road:

· Don’t use team building as a competition amongst individuals to determine potential new managers.

· Be transparent with setting goals and directions in training or team building exercises. People are too smart to allow management to take a surreptitious approach in trying to manipulate them.

· There might be a time and place for large team building experiences but small group approaches seem to improve results and communication.

· There is a difference between team building and building management skills; they are not the same.

Steven S. Lay has been in the travel and corporate meetings business for 30 years and is now focused exclusively on small luxury corporate gatherings in Wine Country. More information about his company, Symtrek Partners, is available at:

Symtrek Partners is a resource to any company contemplating a highly effective

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